If they can dream it, they can do it at Cedar Creek Ranch in Shelton, Washington.
Owner Lois Rogers and her husband, John, have assembled a team of devoted and enthusiastic owners who campaign halter babies, offspring of the farm’s winning American Paint Horse Association (APHA) stallion, Just Obviously Cool. His get keep racking up the points, and the dollars, for Rogers’ satisfied customers. They’ve won more than $40,000 in just two years at local futurities, and it’s Rogers’ satisfied and happy clients—novice and amateur owners—who’ve collected the ribbons and the money. Their quick adaptation to the world of big shows has cost measurably less than it might, due to Rogers’ innovations.
Rogers well remembers when she had $10,000 to buy a horse: “I couldn’t get a big Paint breeder to talk to me.” She’s since gone her own way, and it’s working for her—she’s now a “big Paint breeder.” But she remembers what is was like to crack into the world of showing and breeding and has vowed to make it as simple and affordable as possible for her clients.
The tireless horsewoman does most of the fitting and the actual breeding. Mare owners care for the affordable mares she finds for them, while Rogers recommends diet, deworming and vaccinations for the dam. She may foal the mare if requested, and then owners may send the baby to her. Some choose to have her help them prepare the foal at home, but with either methodology, all owners go to the shows and share.
Rogers finds that showing halter weanlings and yearlings fills the bill for adults between their mid-30s and 50s,admitting that at that age, it’s tough to buy a pleasure horse and be highly competitive on the Paint horse circuits. “Pleasure horses get really expensive really fast,” she says. “In halter, with our system, there’s a lot faster return, and more people can afford to play and win. It’s easier to do halter with a minimal background and budget. And, I find that novices pay their bills much quicker than others.”
An all-encompassing team spirit predominates, because when the group goes to a show, each member helps the others, even when they’ll be competing against one another in the next class. Just how they help varies, especially if the owner is a newbie to horses.
“That person might go to the airport to pick somebody up, or get lunch. If someone isn’t safe to hold a horse at the in gate, maybe they can calculate show fees for the rest of the group,” explains Rogers. “And nobody leaves the show until everyone else is done: We have total cooperation or this doesn’t work.”
Client Sandy Lundgren’s Pinto was fourth in the nation last year in Hunter-type mares, but she recognizes her equestrian limitations, especially when it comes to that “pitching in with the group” scenario. “Lois would never let me pick up a pair of clippers. I’m a hatchet woman! I go to the grocery store to get us food,” confesses Lundgren.
“It’s a co-op and you chip in or hit the road,” Lundgren continues. “You do what you specialize in. The whole package is complete—the trailer’s packed by someone, the feed’s loaded, blankets are washed, etc…”
Since 90 percent of her clients return to campaign another baby, Rogers says the system works for her, as well as her clients: “This is stallion promotion, and if we don’t have owners with babies, then we have to show all those babies. It’s a ‘have-to, have-to’ scenario: Either foot the whole bill or subsidize people as we do.”
At Cedar Creek, an owner pays $550/month for board, feed, most supplements and deworming. Blankets and halters are in a “community supply” and available to all. Only trimming, vaccinations and major veterinary bills are excluded in the price. Rogers also keeps her hauling charges way below market price.
And what about the payback? The halter futurities, Rogers says, are a low-cost way for clients to compete with a high-dollar return. She cites a client who paid $1,000 for breeding stock and later won $9,700 in competitions. The owner fit the baby herself, with Rogers’ advice, and then hit the show road.
The group works diligently in honor of Rogers, whom Lundgren figures, “would give you the shirt off her back, and not because she expects something back from it. She just loves horses.”
Client Deb Sauers concludes, “She has a real sense of carry-through. She worries about everyone, wants them to be happy. For that, she will soon be an overnight success, we’re sure of it.”